Thanks and Giving

I have one life and one chance to make it count for something…

My faith demands that I do whatever I can,

wherever I am,

whenever I can,

for as long as I can

with whatever I have

to try to make a difference.

— Jimmy Carter

It’s always hard to say ‘see you’ to the garden as it goes to sleep for the winter. I trim back roses, put garden statues away, drop dead hanging baskets into the compost and cover the vegetable garden with weed fabric.

I’m aware that we’re moving quickly into the holiday season. At the grocery store, the pumpkin spices, and fall comfort foods are moved front and center. My table placemats change from summer bright to fall oranges and browns. In anticipation for the holiday season, I’m painfully reminded that our table that once crowded in twelve, this year will only hold eight.

Family, for our members, means embracing those at our table as well as those who have gone without us. It rarely matters to us if we share blood, birth, or even ideals other than the heart song that ‘family matters’. We look out for one another. We miss the ones that have gone on before us. Their headstones adorn our memorial garden but the essence of who they are, stay with us. It reminds me to make these moments matter. I’m thankful for the gifts of laughter, wisdom, and family personalities. With so many losses, we’ve learned to say the important things that are often saved for funeral services. And those words are like balm to a wound.

We roll our eyes and moan when we’re reminded at the thanksgiving table each of us must say something from the previous year that we’re thankful for but I secretly think we’re all grateful for the chance to say and to hear inspiring encouragement.

We’ve also started a tradition at Christmas where each person has an empty gift box with our name on it. Everyone is responsible for writing 1-3 sentences that they appreciate about the person whose name is on each box. On Christmas morning, we take turns reading what others have written about us. We’ve come to love this more than the exchanging of gifts. I don’t know what the others do with their papers, but I keep mine in an envelope in my top dresser drawer. When I’m having a tough time, I pull them out, read them and smile.

One of the special moments is reading the things that were written by the family members that have graduated to heaven and memories flood in.

I’ve learned from the loss that we have the power to be a miracle in other’s lives. Thanking family and friends for the things they’ve taught or shared with us might just be the moment that makes another try again when perhaps they thought of giving up. Every person has a life path they must walk, and each of us has the ability to light their way or place a rock that they may stumble upon. An encouraging word may be the catalyst to move them from a good to a great life.

I move through the garden, cleaning off the stones that hold family member’s birth and death dates as reminders of their lives, and smile as I say, “See you.”

You can find more stories like this in Holi-dazes: Lessons from the Garden